The Arab League summit has opened in Qatar, its agenda overshadowed by the presence of Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
He arrived in Doha in defiance of an international indictment for war crimes in Darfur. Qatar had been under pressure not to invite al-Bashir, but refused to buckle. His presence poses a challenge to the 22-member Arab League, but Saudi Arabia has indicated strong support for Sudan. The summit has been billed as a chance for Arab reconciliation with non-Arab Iran. Qatar, for one, has close links with Tehran, which continues to support Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Hizbollah in Lebanon. The talks may see a Qatari/Syrian/and Iranian alliance on one side against the Saudis/Egyptians and Jordanians on the other. But Sudan’s al-Bashir may steal the headlines altogether.